‘I feel sick inside’: Ukrainian and Russian students speak out on the current situation
One Russian student said: ‘I’m worried about how it may affect me in the UK’
This morning, Russia launched an all-out war on Ukraine – with simultaneous attacks by land and by air. At least eight people in Ukraine have died by bombings so far, while the rest of the country are in grid-lock, attempting to flee and seek refuge.
The chaos that has ensued is particularly frightening for students from both Russia and Ukraine. Some have families stuck there, while others are watching from afar, powerless to do anything.
The Tab spoke to students across the UK with ties to Russia and Ukraine to see how they’re doing and what their take on the current situation is. Here’s what they had to say:
‘I don’t feel scared, I just feel sick inside’
Arthur, a University of Nottingham student, moved from Ukraine to the UK 20 years ago, when he was two. His particular concern is the rest of his family still living in Ukraine.
He told The Tab: “I don’t feel scared, I just feel sick inside, and I’m worried about all my family that are still there. I’m especially worried about my mum who lives here in the UK with me, as I know she’s horrified and distraught right now.
“Despite this, I’m trying to keep strong, and I know my mum will stay strong. She has had to live and grow up in the Soviet Union, see it collapse and all the suffering that came with it.
“It’s disgusting that Putin dare call Ukrainians and Russians brothers (which is how we really see it) and then commit such atrocities for the sake of his seemingly fragile ego.
“I have no bad views towards the people of Russia, it’s not their fault. This is happening because of a dictator whose mind is stuck in an outdated world.”
‘I’m worried about how it may affect me in the UK’
Evgeny is a Russian student at the University of Manchester who has been studying in the UK for almost five years now. Despite this, he told The Tab that he is extremely scared about the current situation and how it may affect him over here.
He said: “Honestly, I am feeling scared and angry at the same time. Scared because I am not sure if this will escalate into a bigger conflict, but also, I worry about how it might affect me studying in the UK.
“I have read that Czechia is suspending visa issuance and I am worried that the UK might do the same. Also, there is conscription in Russia, therefore, I am waiting on the news if the Russian military will start drafting people into the army. If they will, I need to look at ways to not go back to Russia, because I do not want to go to the army and be a part of this horrendous invasion.”
While all of this has been going on, Evgeny has been staying up to date with the current Russian media to see how the conflict is portrayed in his home country.
“I am angry because I see constant disinformation in Russian media, which results in lots of Russians supporting this invasion, including some of my relatives. People in Russia think that Russian military is “liberating” people in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas region) and that they are saving the Russian-speaking community from “genocide”, which I believe is a complete lie.
“Listening to the Putin’s speech few days ago made me actually think that he will not stop with the Eastern Ukraine but will try to occupy the whole Ukraine territory. I hope there will be a public outcry against the invasion from the people of the Western countries.”
‘I still find myself really shocked and anxious’
“So my mum is Ukrainian and all her family (my extended family) are there right now”, says Olivia, a current student at the University of Manchester.
“Despite knowing that Russia is a huge threat to Ukraine my whole life, and particularly in a military sense in the last eight years, I still find myself really shocked and really anxious about what’s going on. And particularly about the lengths that Putin is yet to go through before he is stopped.”
According to Olivia, her main concern is understandably the safety of her family and friends. She said, like many people in Ukraine, some of them have fled to the West for safety, while some still remain in Kyiv.
Another main concern of Olivia’s is Ukraine’s position with Russia – she said now more than ever she feels “passionately” about Ukraine cutting all ties with Russia.
She told The Tab: “Russia has abused their relationship time and time again. In the 1930s, Soviet Russians starved over three million Ukrainians in a calculated genocide against ethnic Ukrainians. Today, many Russians spread false claims that Ukrainians want to be part of Russia and that they are ‘one people’. This really isn’t the case, and if anything many people now feel as though Russian aggression has unified Ukrainians and strengthened their identity and sovereignty more than ever, as no one wants to be part of Russia.
“This is an outdated dream that has its roots in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. So I’m concerned about them being under military control, but I know that the Ukrainian identity and pride in their heritage and ancestry will never cease.”
‘I just feel helpless’
Leah, or ‘Лія Доротяк’, in Ukrainian, is currently studying at Newcastle University.
She told The Tab: “My family and I all feel really frustrated and heartbroken. My grandfather fled Ukraine during WWII, and made a new life in England – but this never stopped him calling himself Ukrainian. It really feels like history repeating itself, Ukrainians once again have to fight to defend their sovereign nation and for the right to live peacefully on their own soil.
“We woke up this morning to hundreds of messages and news reports detailing the invasion, and I just felt incredibly sick and worried. Now it’s more frustration but I also just feel really helpless at the fact we can’t do anything to support our friends and family.”
To find additional information about the conflict and ways to help, click here.